New X-Ray Robot Follows Moving Patients

Scott Bancs (r.) with student J.D.
Yamokowski testing the new robot
© University of Florida

The goal of Scott Banks, mechanical engineer at the University of Florida, is to augment static images of patients’ bones, muscles and joints with an interior view of these and other parts in action during normal physical activity. By merging such full-motion X-rays with computerised representations, orthopaedic surgeons will make better diagnoses, suggest more appropriate treatments and get a clearer idea of post-operative successes and failures, he hopes.

Usual techniques do not work well with injuries that manifest themselves when a joint is in motion, Banks said. These include, for example, injuries to the patella, or kneecap, and injuries of the shoulder. Surgeons sometimes have to operate to diagnose these and other injuries, which can lead to unnecessary surgeries.

Banks has one working robot currently. The robot, which has a one-meter mechanical arm, is a commercial product normally used in robotically assisted surgeries and silicon chip manufacturing that Banks and his graduate students have re-engineered. The robot can shadow a person’s knee, shoulder or other joint with its hand as he or she moves.

In its completed form, the hand will hold lightweight equipment capable of shooting X-rays, while another robot will hold the sensor that captures images of the body as moving videos. Although the robots will be attached to a fixed base, there is room for a person to move around normally within their reach. And in the future, said Banks, “we could put these robots on wheels and they could follow you around.”

To use it, a patient wears an LED-lit patch on the body part that is intended for targeting. The patch, several cameras placed around the room and a networked computer command the robots to hone in on and track the joint.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Florida